Actor Matthew Perry, known for his role in the popular TV series “Friends,” passed away on October 28 in Los Angeles, with an autopsy report citing “acute effects of ketamine” as the primary cause. The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner’s autopsy also noted contributing factors including coronary artery disease and effects of buprenorphine.
Perry, aged 54, was found in his Pacific Palisades home, having apparently drowned in a hot tub. The report indicated no presence of alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, PCP, or fentanyl in his system, but mentioned “prescription medications and loose pills” found at the scene.
Traces of ketamine were detected in his stomach contents, and although Perry had undergone ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety, the medical examiner stated the ketamine at the time of death was not from this therapy due to its short half-life of 3 to 4 hours.
Ketamine, originally a veterinary anesthetic, gained notoriety in human medicine for its dissociative effects. Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist and former chief medical examiner of New York City, highlighted the drug’s transition from veterinary use to human recreational use, particularly for its hallucinogenic properties. Despite its abuse potential, ketamine has recognized medical applications, including as a treatment for severe depression.
The Department of Medical Examiner initially deferred the cause of death, mentioning “other significant conditions.” No illegal drugs were found at Perry’s residence, and no foul play was suspected. The actor was laid to rest on November 3 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
First responders found Perry unconscious in his hot tub, with no signs of life upon their arrival. The circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation by the LAPD and the LA County Medical Examiner, with the case being handled by the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division due to its high-profile nature.
Ketamine’s Misuse and Risks
Ketamine, often used for its anesthetic and analgesic properties in both human and veterinary medicine, can be misused for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Recreational use can lead to various health risks, including impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and potentially severe mental effects like hallucinations and disassociation from reality. Long-term misuse can result in cognitive impairments, bladder issues, and dependency. While its therapeutic potential, especially for treatment-resistant depression, is being explored, its misuse remains a significant concern in substance abuse.